Struggling programs face off Saturday as UMass men’s soccer takes on Fordham

UMass looks to end scoreless streak

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Struggling programs face off Saturday as UMass men’s soccer takes on Fordham

Mehroz Kapadia

Mehroz Kapadia

Mehroz Kapadia

By Michael Townsend, Collegian Staff

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After weeks of injuries and tough competition, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team finally looks ready to win a game against a struggling Fordham team.

UMass (4-7-0, 0-3-0 Atlantic 10) will look to rebound from a six-game skid, playing against a Fordham team that has been inconsistent all year. Although Fordham (3-8-1, 2-1 A-10) hasn’t impressed so far this year, the Rams did record double-overtime losses to Villanova and No. 7 Clemson. Regardless, they are weaker than the Minutemen’s recent opponents, particularly Saint Louis and Dayton.

In six games without a win, UMass has failed to score a goal in their last five. With junior Eli Cronin sidelined due to injury for nearly a month and still getting back to match fitness, younger players with little to no collegiate playing experience have been forced to carry the workload for an underperforming UMass offense.

While these younger players – including freshmen Logan Brown, Quinn Serafino and Ryan Levay as well as sophomore James McPherson – have succeeded in creating lockdown defense and scoring looks, they have struggled immensely with getting the ball in the net.

“Our defense has allowed less than a goal per game,” coach Fran O’Leary said. “That is an excellent mark, it has to be one of the best in the country. If we can start to convert more of our scoring looks, the sky’s the limit for this team. We just have to put the ball in the net, that’s all.”

Fordham’s up-and-down season has seen both losses to teams with middling records and fierce battles with teams in the top 10 of the national rankings. In addition to the close loss to Clemson, Fordham’s was shut out 2-0 at the hands of Rider (4-4-1). Fordham’s inconsistency this year makes it very difficult to get a sense of what the outcome Saturday will be.

One thing that will factor into this game is how close to full strength Eli Cronin is on Saturday. At full strength, Cronin factored heavily on both sides of the ball during UMass’s clean sheet start. With the junior limited physically, the Minutemen have had the very same struggles they faced without him: inability to convert on scoring looks and lack of composure. If the Minutemen are going to pull out a win with no players in particular carrying any sort of momentum, then they will need Cronin to not just mentally, but physically be ready to do whatever is needed of him.

“Eli’s a great player, we’re glad to have him back,” O’Leary said. “He’s been around a lot longer than the young guys and that experience gives us some confidence that is needed to turn things around.”

Fordham was picked to finish fifth in the loaded A-10 this year, four spots ahead of the Minutemen. Fordham is as close to a break as it gets in a schedule that includes Yale in addition to their conference opponents.

UMass is coming off a tough loss on the road at Davidson University. Like Fordham, Davidson is a talented team that has faced a difficult schedule. Despite plenty of scoring opportunities, the Minutemen, in what has become characteristic fashion, dropped the game 1-0 in spite of good defense and goalkeeping from Marvyn Dorchin.

The Fordham game, like the Davidson game, is one of the more winnable on UMass’s schedule. If Cronin plays at the level he played at early in the year, the Minutemen are in good shape. If he doesn’t, it’s still anyone’s game.

Michael Townsend can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MichaelTowns777.